Firing of northern school board finds support
Education Minister Dave Hancock announced the decision Thursday, citing concern over student achievement results and staff turnover in the division, which stretches across much of northern Alberta and includes 23 schools and 2,885 students.
"Ordinarily we would be very, very concerned," said Dennis Theobald of the Alberta Teachers' Association.
"Under this circumstance though, we feel the minister's actions are justified. We've had large numbers of teachers who have been leaving, and large numbers of school administrators. And that can't be good for conditions of learning in the schools in that jurisdiction."
The Canadian School Boards Association echoed that sentiment.
"It's not something that was really unexpected, and the minister did the right things in this particular case for the students," said Neda Borden, president of the CSBA.
'A unique situation'
"I certainly see it as being a unique situation and a unique set of circumstances. If anything, it will have a positive effect in that it will underscore the role of the elected school board trustees and the importance of school achievement."
While education is a provincial responsibility, Borden said, because the majority of students in the Northlands School Division are aboriginal, the federal government should play a role in improving student achievement as well.
But the man who chaired the board when it was dissolved said the education minister's decision is disrespectful to aboriginal communities.
"I remember Dave Hancock saying in a conference in Red Deer the local school boards —locally elected people — are the best and [have] the know-how to do, in terms of providing education," said Steve Noskey. "So is this a turnaround to what he said in Red Deer."
Noskey agreed the issues raised by the minister need to be addressed, but could not understand why the board had to be scrapped.
Still, he said, he hopes the move will prompt an examination of what aboriginal students need to succeed in the classroom.